| Web Exclusives|
|Editors' Picks. Choice, v.49, no. 12, August 2012.|
To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.
Churchland, Patricia S. Braintrust: what neuroscience tells us about morality. Princeton, 2011. 273p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780691137032, $24.95.
49-6805 QP430 2010-43584 CIP
This empirically based, superbly argued text by Churchland (emer., Univ. of California, San Diego) undoubtedly will ruffle many feathers with its thesis: ". . . morality can be--and I argue, is--grounded in our biology, in our capacity for compassion and our ability to learn and figure things out." In 1986 her Neurophilosophy set the stage for many subsequent, interdisciplinary debates, including questions such as whether the mind can be entirely reduced to the brain, and what implications such a reduction might hold for free will and moral responsibility. Later works such as Brain-Wise (CH, Sep'03, 41-0268) served to shore up her arguments. Braintrust addresses lingering questions and implications. Churchland eloquently defends the naturalization of morality, inviting readers to reconsider such normatively significant notions as empathy, caring, and trust in light of new understandings of the role of oxytocin and other hormones, possibilities inherent in mirror neurons, and distinctions between various forms of psychopathy and normal behaviors. Additionally, she tackles head-on deeply rooted philosophical challenges that are motivated by the famous is-ought fallacy or embedded in more traditional moral theories such as consequentialism or deontology. Though Churchland's approach is cautious, it is convincing. Excellent endnotes, bibliography, and index. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. -- H. Storl, Augustana College (IL)
Cox, Brian. The quantum universe: (and why anything that can happen, does), by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. DaCapo Press, 2011. 255p bibl index ISBN 0-306-81964-3, $25.00; ISBN 9780306819643, $25.00.
49-6940 QC174 MARC
The Quantum Universe is replete with wonderful sound-bites, demonstrating Cox's dexterity with popular writing, probably fine-tuned as a science guru for the BBC. Here he continues a successful partnership with Forshaw, begun with Why Does E = mc2 (CH, Jan'10, 47-2632). The University of Manchester (UK) professors write in a manner reminiscent of American physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88). Every aficionado of quantum physics recognizes the double-slit diffraction pattern. The Quantum Universe, like many other quantum books, opens with this pattern. It quickly differs, however, by taking Feynman's explanation seriously--that the pattern is explained by assuming that the electron takes all possible paths. And building on Feynman's clock faces to represent the wave function (see his QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, CH, May'86; expanded edition, 2006), Cox and Forshaw derive many of the perplexing fundamentals of quantum mechanics, including the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the elusive Higgs particle, and the evolution of white dwarf stars. The book keeps the historical references to a minimum so that readers are not inundated with lists of and information on the lives of Nobel Prize winners. This and a folksy writing style make this work an entertaining, albeit challenging, quantum primer. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Students of all levels, general readers. -- J. F. Burkhart, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic design: a new history. 2nd ed. Yale, 2012. 464p bibl index ISBN 0-300-17260-5, $65.00; ISBN 9780300172607, $65.00.
49-6674 NC998 2011-25963 CIP
This second edition (1st ed., CH, Jan'08, 45-2413) is one of the best accounts of the history of graphic design from the late 19th century to the present currently published in English. This new edition features one new chapter, expanded sections, revised text, and new images. Both this volume by Eskilson (Eastern Illinois Univ.), and Patrick Cramsie's The Story of Graphic Design (CH, Oct'10, 48-0660) are considered the preferred reference works and texts in many design programs. Meggs' History of Graphic Design (2012; 1st ed., CH, Oct'83), now in its fifth edition, with Alston Purvis as coauthor with the late Philip Meggs, is also in the conversation, but in this reviewer's opinion the Cramsie and the Eskilson works are on a level of their own. So how does one choose between them? Eskilson has more and larger illustrations, is better produced, and is extremely thorough. Cramsie is perhaps more affordably priced for students. Cramsie also covers the pre-1800 period, including the important classical and Renaissance periods, in more detail before turning to the 1800s; Eskilson, on the other hand, includes a very brief survey of the pre-19th century. Libraries should definitely have both these books, along with Meggs. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. -- S. Skaggs, University of Louisville
Friedman, Jeffrey. Engineering the financial crisis: systemic risk and the failure of regulation, by Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus. Pennsylvania, 2011. 210p bibl index afp ISBN 0-8122-4357-9, $45.00; ISBN 9780812243574, $45.00.
49-6994 HB3717 2011-24456 CIP
The latest financial crisis has generated a flood of books purporting to give the inside story of exactly why the crisis took place. This book is not just one more in the series. For anyone wanting to read only a single book about the crisis and its origins, this is the book to read. Friedman and Kraus state, "The informed public's impressions of the crisis are based in part on journalists' and scholars' hasty pronouncements. These impressions have now hardened into convictions." With that statement as a precursor, they proceed to examine many theories of how the crisis came about, discarding most. But they are particularly critical of regulators (not simply US regulators) who incentivized banks to become overly property focused ("everyone should own a home"). This led to some very shoddy decision making that is far too detailed in the book to be summarized here. While the book is quite derogatory toward economists, it should be noted that the dust jacket features a complimentary quote from Nobel laureate economist Vernon Smith, who clearly predicted that a bubble seemed to have formed in the housing market and that bubbles always burst. Not every economist was asleep at the switch. Summing Up: Essential. Academic, public, and professional economics collections. -- B. P. Keating, University of Notre Dame
Garcia, Ruben J. Marginal workers: how legal fault lines divide workers and leave them without protection. New York University, 2012. 183p index afp; ISBN 9780814732212, $45.00.
49-7169 KF3464 2011-31462 CIP
By focusing on marginalized workers, Garcia (law, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas) exposes how the patchwork of employment laws divides workers into categories (unions vs. minorities, race vs. gender, citizen vs. immigrant workers), leaving major lacuna in worker protections. His critical voice joins a chorus of academics dissecting the inadequacies of current law and exploring various remedies, paralleling debates reverberating in labor and activist circles. Disillusioned with existing statutes, he rejects litigation as a means to reinvigorate the contemporary framework as advocated by Ellen Dannin in Taking Back the Workers' Law (2006), and sees little hope in new legislation, the centerpiece of organized labor's political agenda. Instead he favors international law as a foundation for worker protections as human rights, combined with transforming the dominant market fundamentalist ideology into a philosophy grounded on worker freedom. The book's case narratives, as well as its vivid peaks into diverse sources of employment law, will appeal to introductory readers. Advanced readers will appreciate the survey of alternative strategies but may wish for deeper analysis of the relationships among, as well as advantages and disadvantages of, different approaches. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. -- A. B. Cochran, Agnes Scott College
Hart, Jonathan. Fictional and historical worlds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 264p index ISBN 0-230-34069-5, $85.00; ISBN 9780230340695, $85.00.
49-6710 PN81 2011-29578 CIP
"Aren't you relieved," Dustin Hoffman asks a character in Stranger than Fiction, "to know that you're not a golem?" Hart (Univ. of Alberta, Canada) shows that literature occupies an infinite place in space and time between reality as it exists now and the stories that make up the structure of life. Who was Julius Caesar, the real Julius Caesar? One can never know, but layers of stories and myths have created a reality around his legend. Hart reveals how criticism unfolds the ways in which myth and reality are intertwined to tell a good story, from Shakespeare, to Bunyan, to the stories of colonization, to the retelling of the Bible and Greek myths. "Presence vanishes as we speak, so time is a slippery business," he writes. Whose Cleopatra is closer to truth? Shakespeare's or Shaw's? Stories include history, culture, myth, and the physical laws of time and space, as well as the line between fiction and history, a line often blurred by the storyteller. Hart's study explores this intersection and the criticism, from Frye to Greenblatt, that contextualizes it. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- K. Gale, University of Nebraska
Helmstadter, Carol. Nursing before Nightingale, 1815-1899, by Carol Helmstadter and Judith Godden. Ashgate, 2011. 219p bibl index; ISBN 9781409423133, $119.95; ISBN 9781409423140 e-book, contact publisher for price.
49-6918 RT11 2011-15342 CIP
Who gets the credit? Did the nursing profession exist before the superstardom of Florence Nightingale? Historians Helmstadter (formerly, Univ. of Toronto, Canada) and Godden (formerly, Univ. of Sydney, Australia) argue that indeed it did exist and that Nightingale's contributions were the culmination of major reforms that occurred earlier in the 19th century. In an expanded history of nursing, this seminal scholarship examines the evolution of the nursing role from as early as the 17th century through the late 1900s. By carefully examining the complex contributing factors in the journey to health care reform, it explores the earliest efforts of the Daughters of Charity in France, the influences of diverse cultures/religions, and the arduous work involved in recruiting/educating a competent work force able to transition from an old to a new paradigm of medical practice. This intelligent, well-written, historically based document changes the context of Nightingale's contributions and provides a more authentic perspective on nursing's evolution. Instead of focusing on the mythology surrounding Nightingale, it bridges the historical gap in nursing scholarship, bringing a fresh perspective on the contributions of many over centuries to the development of the nursing profession. Valuable for anyone interested in the history of medicine, or religious, labor, or gender studies. Summing Up: Essential. All academic readers. -- N. I. Henry, The Pennsylvania State University
Hyman, Louis. Borrow: the American way of debt. Vintage Books, 2012. 292p index afp; ISBN 9780307741684 pbk, $15.00.
49-6998 HG3756 2011-41427 CIP
Debt is good or bad, according to its uses, as Hyman (Cornell Univ.; Debtor Nation, CH, Jul'11, 48-6410) shows in his compelling history of the American economy as seen through the lens of personal borrowing. Concise, lively, and accessible, Borrow examines the causes and consequences of the 20th-century's explosion of consumer debt. Lenders, borrowers, storekeepers, bankers, politicians, speculators, hucksters, and folks just trying to get by populate the narratives. Hyman's insights, supported by extensive research and careful analysis, bypass typical condemnations. Instead, Hyman explains how individuals, businesses, financial institutions, and governments increasingly accepted borrowing as a reasonable means to a variety of ends. Changing attitudes and policies encouraged consumer debt for purchasing goods and homes, and then increasingly rewarded repackaging debts as "securities" to attract investors. Invariably, poor, overly optimistic judgments in boom times appear foolhardy or malevolent in bad times. Especially since the 1970s, consumer debt has become a profitable siren luring investors away from manufacturing and into unproductive, dangerous ventures. Hyman proposes structural reforms to redirect investors from repackaged consumer debt and to raise incentives for investments in nation-building innovations and productivity. Everyone should read Borrow. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers and libraries. -- P. W. Laird, University of Colorado Denver
Kord, Susanne. Contemporary Hollywood masculinities: gender, genre, and politics, by Susanne Kord and Elisabeth Krimmer. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 280p bibl index ISBN 0-230-33841-0, $85.00; ISBN 9780230338418, $85.00.
49-6776 PN1995 2011-21690 CIP
Kord (University College, London, UK) and Krimmer (Univ. of California, Davis) deliver an interesting work on the intersection of genre and masculinity in modern American film. The authors consider a large body of work from the Clinton-Bush years (1992-2008). Focusing on the nexus of the political and the cinematic, "because they both draw on the same reservoir of cultural values and myths," the authors do some deep readings of films that have been outside the purview of contemporary theorists. Kord and Krimmer wisely also take on huge blockbusters and franchises (The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Spiderman) in their attempt to demonstrate the iconic importance of such films in negotiating the terrain of masculinity. The authors' readings are remarkably insightful and deliberate when they steer clear of moralizing. Emphasizing "destabilized masculinity," they illustrate how this body of films differs from the hard-body action films of the Reagan 1980s. Many of the readings illustrate the reconciliation between violence and softness in such texts. The chapter on the Pierce Brosnan-Daniel Craig transition in the Bond series deserves special recognition for its brilliant analysis of how star charisma, changing political circumstances, and reconsiderations of masculinity can mold a seminal franchise. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above. -- G. R. Butters Jr., Aurora University
Kovner, Sarah. Occupying power: sex workers and servicemen in postwar Japan. Stanford, 2012. 226p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780804776912, $50.00.
49-7045 HQ247 2011-14086 CIP
Although there have been many books published in recent years dealing either with the post-WW II period of Japanese history or with modern Japanese gender history (whether the focus is on geisha, comfort women, or occupation-era sex workers), this new book by a young historian manages rather brilliantly to advance the discussion of all these interrelated issues. In presentation, the author's prose is entirely free of obfuscation and jargon. Kovner (Univ. of Florida) lays out her evidence so logically and clearly that a neophyte undergraduate could follow the interconnected strands of evidence and argument and the many ways even familiar categories such as geisha have sometimes been misconstrued. The author's fluency in Japanese opens up reams of evidence at a level not always seen in books about Japan. She reaches for and firmly grasps interconnections, whether across national boundaries or periods of time, and frequently with an eloquence that requires rereading and sharing. The text itself is fairly short (158 pages), backed up by 65 pages of detailed supporting material. The rave reviews coming in from leading scholars suggest that Kovner already has vaulted into the front ranks of Japanese scholarship. Summing Up: Essential. All academic levels/libraries.
-- R. B. Lyman Jr., emeritus, Simmons College
Lawless, Jennifer L. Becoming a candidate: political ambition and the decision to run for office. Cambridge, 2012. 279p bibl index; ISBN 9780521767491, $99.00; ISBN 9780521756600 pbk, $27.99.
49-7174 JK2281 2011-25064 CIP
Using survey and interview data, Lawless (American Univ.) analyzes factors that influence nascent political ambition in order to predict why people decide to run for political office. Her data reveal that men of all races are significantly more likely to consider running for office than women, and that when women do express interest in political office, their ambition is more readily confined to local positions or low-level offices. Lawless believes that family dynamics may be responsible, as interest in political office is expressed more often by those who were raised in politicized households and who have the support of a spouse or family member. Additionally, professional qualifications and experiences affect one's interest in running for office, with lawyers and political activists more likely than educators and business leaders to acquire politically relevant skills that can foster political ambition. Expressed support from party leaders increases the likelihood that one will seek office, but increased partisan conflict leads to greater cynicism, which can suppress political ambition. Lawless concludes that more needs to be done to encourage citizens' willingness to serve so that democracy remains strong. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above. -- J. E. Walsh, Azusa Pacific University
Lena, Jennifer C. Banding together: how communities create genres in popular music. Princeton, 2012. 242p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780691150765, $35.00; ISBN 9781400840458 e-book, $35.00.
49-6791 ML3918 2011-18691 CIP
This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the role of music--all music--in culture. Although Lena's focus is on the rise of 20th-century American popular idioms, the questions she asks are appropriate for and applicable to a number of significant canons. Whereas a number of her contemporaries have approached the questions of "genre" and "community" from qualitative perspectives, Lena (sociology, Barnard) includes the additional dimension of quantitative analysis. In the section titled "Music Trajectories," she notes that "based on the initial case studies of bebop jazz, bluegrass, and old school rap, [she] expected that all musical trajectories would grow from Avant-garde circles, but just forty-three of the sixty styles began this way, and only sixteen experienced the full AgSIT trajectory." (AgSIT references "a progression from Avant-garde to Scene-based, then Industry-based, and finally Traditionalist genre forms.") The inclusion of qualitative examination allows for a more in-depth approach to understanding the paths these musics take in their respective communities, illuminating already-compelling issues. Also of interest is the section on "government-purposed genres," in which Lena closely examines the manner in which governmental appropriation and/or subvention of funds for various sorts of music is manifested. A significant contribution to the literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty/professionals. -- K. S. Todd, Oklahoma Baptist University
MacLean, Hope. The shaman's mirror: visionary art of the Huichol. Texas, 2012. 284p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780292728769, $50.00; ISBN 9780292735439 e-book, contact publisher for price.
49-6966 F1221 2011-35818 CIP
The traditional and sacred art form based on the shamanic peyote visions and dreams of the Huichol Indians of Mexico--the startlingly unique, high-quality so-called "yarn-paintings"--originally served as individual offerings to the gods. Over the last 20 years, the yarn paintings have become well-known internationally, transforming from personal, sacred offerings into one of the world's great indigenous art traditions, and a commercial success. In 1988, anthropologist/fiber artist MacLean (Univ. of Ottawa, Canada) began two decades of ethnographic fieldwork among the Huichol, culminating with this comprehensive magnificently illustrated book. It is packed with rich detail about Huichol art--who makes it, how it is designed, how the hallucinogenic peyote cactus influences the vibrant colors, and, importantly, how thoroughly it retains a deep connection, even in its tourist manifestations, to shamanic visionary experience and the very core of Huichol world view. MacLean demonstrates that, in fact, the yarn paintings are always based on visions rooted in Huichol concepts of soul-energy and retain a deep aesthetic structure that is purely Huichol. The book is impressively loaded with rich material not only about the Huichol and their remarkable art, but also about the important connections between visionary experience, shamanism, and altered states of consciousness. Exceptional. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. -- P. Passariello, Centre College
Meyer, Karl Ernest. Pax ethnica: where and how diversity succeeds, by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac. PublicAffairs, 2012. 270p bibl index; ISBN 9781586488291, $28.99.
49-7199 HM1271 2011-42959 CIP
Too often, ties of blood have led to rivers of blood. However, as journalist Meyer and filmmaker Brysac contend, this is not inevitable. On the contrary, their journalistic foray into instances of ethnically diverse groups living in harmony offers an antidote to excessive pessimism. Their book can be read as complementing Michael Ignatieff's Blood and Belonging (1994), which focuses on the dark side of ethnicity when interethnic relations go badly wrong. As their book's title indicates, Meyer and Brysac are intent on examining successful instances of diversity without ignoring the discontents. Their examples are not the places that make the headlines. These include Flensburg, a city central to the Schleswig-Holstein dispute in Germany; the Indian state of Kerala; the Russian Federation's Tatarstan; the city of Marseille; and New York City's borough of Queens. Without glossing over the potential for conflict or how difficult it is to achieve mutually respectful social relations across cultural divides, the authors illustrate the possibilities if the will, leadership, and decency of ordinary citizens are present to make it happen. At a time when the ideals of multiculturalism are routinely challenged by those suspicious about its presumed divisiveness, this book is required reading. Summing Up: Essential. All public and undergraduate libraries. -- P. Kivisto, Augustana College (IL)
Petroski, Henry. To forgive design: understanding failure. Belknap, Harvard, 2012. 410p index afp; ISBN 9780674065840, $27.95.
49-6907 TA169 2011-44194 CIP
For more than two decades, Petroski (civil engineering, Duke Univ.) has been delighting and educating readers with tales of engineering failures and how they can lead to safer technology. Like David Billington (The Innovators, CH, Oct'96, 34-0943), Petroski draws on the history of technology, but in his own unique way. In To Forgive Design, Petroski reviews recent engineering failures, including the 2007 collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W bridge over the Mississippi. While most of the study deals with bridges, the author's scope is wide, ranging from space shuttles to teeth. Always technically well informed and gifted with a comfortable, engaging storytelling style, Petroski shows readers how engineering design is a compromise between the ideal of perfect safety and the practicalities of limited resources. The lesson is that engineering makes advances through failure, but only if the lessons that failure teaches are applied to future projects. Marred only by an occasional overstrained metaphor, most of the time To Forgive Design succeeds in conveying Petroski's message in a way that can be appreciated by the general reader and put to practical use by engineering students of all levels, as well as professional practitioners. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. -- K. D. Stephan, Texas State University--San Marcos
The Routledge companion to religion and science, ed. by James. W. Haag, Gregory R. Peterson, and Michael L. Spezio. Routledge, 2012. 633p bibl index; ISBN 9780203803516, $200.00; ISBN 9780203803516 e-book, contact publisher for price.
49-6840 BL240 2011-11491 CIP
For this exceptional collection, Haag, Peterson, and Spezio have brought together 55 articles authored by 60 scholars to create what is probably the best single volume anthology on science and religion currently available. These essays, and the editors' approach, represent the next generation of studies in science and religion. Here diversity extends not only to variations on Christian themes, but to Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Native American beliefs as well--not just in a special section devoted to "world religions," but as part of the ongoing dialogues throughout the volume. The topics, too, move beyond the rather parochial, if persistent, debates about Genesis versus Darwin and the abstract concerns of the early years of the field--e.g., whether science and religion can be compatible--to show how science and religion actually can and do engage each other. Topics include such matters as biotechnology and justice, evolutionary biology and suffering, cognitive sciences and religious experience, ecology and the integrity of nature, aging and life extension, and transhumanism and artificial intelligence. A paperback edition, when issued, would make an excellent textbook. Summing Up: Essential. All collections that include science and religion; lower-level undergraduates and above.
-- C. D. Kay, Wofford College
Shared responsibility, shared risk: government, markets, and social policy in the twenty-first century, ed. by Jacob S. Hacker and Ann O'Leary. Oxford, 2012. 276p index afp; ISBN 9780199781911, $99.00; ISBN 9780199781928 pbk, $29.95.
49-7181 HN65 2011-13984 CIP
This edited volume details one of the biggest policy shifts in US history, the transfer of economic and social risks from the government and business sector to individuals and their families. Hacker (Yale Univ.) and O'Leary (Univ. of California, Berkeley, School of Law) have assembled a robust panel of scholars to dissect this movement's impacts and potential opportunities. Far from being a descriptive work, this book offers workable policy prescriptions on everything from health care to economic insecurity. It offers much-needed insights into how to navigate the new landscape of retracting government assistance and a public that is increasingly skeptical of government intervention. The approach of the contributors is novel in that they tackle timely topics and engage readers in a personal way. By the end of the book, readers should have a greater understanding of potential avenues for government action and the consequences of their political decisions. The book's one fault is that it focuses heavily on federal policy and does not engage policy issues in the 50 states as much as it could, but this book should be well regarded. It is easily digestible for undergraduate students, but sophisticated enough to engage a professional audience. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and professional collections. -- N. K. Mitchell, Prairie View A&M University
Taylor, Timothy. The instant economist: everything you need to know about how the economy works. Plume, 2012. 260p bibl index; ISBN 9780452297524 pbk, $16.00.
49-7012 HB171 2011-33416 CIP
Currently The Instant Economist is the most readable and up-to-date summary of a typical US college principles of economics course. Following the traditional table of contents--from microeconomics through macroeconomics and international topics--and using original, helpful metaphors (and only two graphs), Taylor (managing editor, Journal of Economic Perspectives) takes the reader through the terminology, key concepts, and controversies dominant in today's economics profession. Noteworthy additions to the standard textbook canon are a chapter on personal investing and detailed accounts of the minimum wage, corporate merger, and inequality debates, introducing readers to the data issues that lie behind these controversies. The 36 short chapters reflect the book's origin in the author's Teaching Company recording, Economics; however, the book is a valuable stand-alone option. For supplementary coverage of the history of economic thought and more complete institutional context, see Robert Heilbroner and Lester Thurow's Economics Explained (4th ed., 1998; 1st ed., CH, Oct'82). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of undergraduate students as well as general readers wanting a readable introduction to economics. -- M. H. Maier, Glendale Community College
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